Friday 30th September 2016: Any attempt to repeal the Hunting Act by the Conservative party would be deeply unpopular amongst the majority of the British public, including the party’s own supporters, voters in Andrea Leadsom’s and Theresa May’s constituencies and marginal Conservative constituencies, new polls and data projections reveal.

A new Ipsos MORI poll1 commissioned by animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports revealed 84% of the public do not want a return to fox hunting and 65% would view an election candidate more favourably if they supported keeping hunting with dogs illegal compared with only 9% who would view a candidate more favourably if they supported making hunting with dogs legal again.

Opposition to hare hunting and deer hunting was even stronger, at 91% and 88% respectively. Findings also revealed that almost five times as many Conservative supporters would view a candidate who supports the Act more favourably as would view one who wanted to make hunting with dogs legal again more favourably, and people in rural areas are more likely to view anti-hunt politicians favourably than those living in urban areas (71% to 64%).

In addition, new figures revealed by the charity show that opposition to legalising the ‘sport’ of hunting wild animals with dogs is at an all-time high. Key figures show:

  • Large majorities of the public oppose making fox hunting (84%), deer hunting (88%), and hare hunting (91%) legal again
  • In rural areas support for the ban on fox hunting was also high, at 82%
  • Support among Conservative supporters for the ban on fox hunting has risen sharply. It is now at 73%, having risen from 64% in 2013, 66% in 2014, and 70% in 2015

League Against Cruel Sports CEO, Eduardo Gonçalves said: “Today’s polling highlights just how out of touch any move to repeal the hunting ban would be with the views held by the majority of the British public - including Conservative voters.

“The overwhelming view of electorates is that they do not want their parliamentary representatives supporting repeal. Andrea Leadsom must accept this. Theresa May has previously warned of the risk of the Conservative Party being seen as the ‘nasty’ party, but the fact that so many Conservative MPs and their party supporters today are opposed to hunting suggests that the party is much more in line with the British public on this. Any move by Andrea Leadsom to bring back hunting would very much be going against the current Conservative tide.”

Based on previous research, the charity estimates the vast majority of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs would vote against repeal while at least 50 Conservative MPs have spoken out publically against hunting.

Marginals at risk?

Findings from specific polling carried out in four marginal constituencies across the country have shown voters would view their parliamentary candidate more favourably if they supported keeping hunting with dogs illegal.

  • In Bolton West, 73% would view candidates more favourably if they supported keeping the ban
  • In Nuneaton, 68% would view candidates more favourably if they supported keeping the ban
  • In Thanet South, 74% would view candidates more favourably if they supported keeping the ban
  • In Yeovil, 63% would view candidates more favourably if they supported keeping the ban

In three of the marginal constituencies polled – Bolton West, Nuneaton, and Thanet South - more than 80% of the public supported keeping the ban on hunting for foxes, deer, and hare. In the Conservative/Liberal Democrat marginal of Yeovil in the South West, 74% supported the ban on fox hunting, rising to 85% for both deer and hare hunting.

Nationwide opposition

Further, to understand how voters viewed the hunting ban in constituencies across England and Wales, Ipsos MORI used ONS data and 2015 voting patterns to produce projections from the national poll to show how people might think in a specific constituency (assuming that their views are similar to the views of people with similar demographic characteristics in the national poll, and not allowing for any specific local circumstances).

These projections and regional analysis of the GB poll itself indicated that the great majority of people examined across the country were likely to be in favour of keeping the ban on fox hunting. These include Andrea Leadsom’s constituency. (South Northamptonshire) 81%, Theresa May’s (Maidenhead) 80% and David Cameron’s former constituency (Witney) 81%, as well as the constituencies of Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) 88% and Green Party joint leader Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion) 87%.

Mr Gonçalves said: “The Hunting Act made hunting wild animals with dogs for sport illegal, protecting a number of animals including foxes, hare, and deer. Not only would a move to legalise the cruel sport be potentially detrimental to the animals the law protects, but as today’s polling makes clear - would make no sense politically.

“The bloodsport lobby have claimed that people in the countryside demand a return to hunting. These polls show however that eight out of ten people in rural areas support the ban. They also claim hunting is needed for pest control. But the League has continually debunked this myth, exposing the use of artificial earths to raise foxes in order to provide a steady supply to be hunted, and the secretive training of young hounds to kill fox cubs. More and more, the arguments for a repeal of the Hunting Act lie in tatters.

“The British public have a settled view on this. Even if English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) was used in an attempt to bring back hunting and SNP MPs were somehow prevented from voting, the majority of MPs will vote against repeal. It is time for Andrea Leadsom to join the rest of the country and support the hunting ban.”

- ENDS -

Notes

National Polling

Ipsos MORI interviewed a nationally representative quota sample of 1,986 adults in Great Britain aged 15+. Interviews were carried out face-to-face, in home, using CAPI (Computer Aided Personal Interviewing Laptops), as part of the Ipsos MORI Omnibus (Capibus). Fieldwork was conducted between 2nd and 11th August 2016. The results have been weighted to reflect the known profile of the adult population.

Respondents were asked the following questions:

Question 1. Now a question about sports where animals are set on other animals to fight or kill them. These activities are currently illegal in Great Britain. For each one I read out, please tell me whether you think it should or should not be made legal again. Just read out the letter that applies in each case. (The order respondents were asked about each activity was rotated)

Fox Hunting; Deer Hunting; Hare Hunting and Coursing; Dog fighting; Badger baiting.

- Yes, should be made legal again

- No, should not be made legal again

- Don’t Know

Question 2. Some issues are more important than others to different people. Thinking now about the Hunting Act which banned the hunting of wild mammals such as foxes, hares and deer with dogs for sport. At the next general election, which, if any of the following statements comes closest to the way you would feel about a candidate in the election on the subject of legalising or not legalising hunting with dogs for sport?

1. I would view a candidate much more favourably if they supported making hunting with dogs legal again
2. I would view a candidate slightly more favourably if they supported making hunting with dogs legal again
3. A candidate’s position on the Hunting Act would make no difference to how favourably or unfavourably I view them
4. I would view a candidate slightly more favourably if they supported keeping hunting with dogs illegal
5. I would view a candidate much more favourably if they supported keeping hunting with dogs illegal
6. Don't know


The Four Constituency Polls

Ipsos MORI conducted telephone polls in four separate constituencies selected to cover different regions (The North, Midlands, South West and South East). The data for each constituency has been weighted to be representative of each constituency in terms of demographics.

A quota sample of 800 adults aged 18+ was set for each constituency. Interviews were carried out by telephone, using CATI (Computer Aided Telephone Interviewing). Achieved samples were 801 in Bolton West, 802 in Nuneaton, 823 in Thanet South and 803 in Yeovil. Fieldwork was conducted 6th July to July 26th in Bolton West, Nuneaton, Thanet South and to July 27th in Yeovil.


Projections – technical note:

Projections have been made from the national survey to indicate the expected distribution of opinions in each constituency, given the demographic and political characteristics of that constituency, estimating the opinions of each group of the population from the answers given by similar respondents in the national survey. The projection relies only on the following characteristics of individuals and their local areas which were measured in the survey and for which reliable figures exist on the differences between constituencies:

1. rurality: whether respondents live in a rural or an urban area (as defined by ONS)

2. how they voted at the last general election

3. age

4. gender

5. educational attainment

The analysis makes the assumption that after weighting for these factors, correcting for other differences between constituencies would make no additional impact on people’s views.

In practical terms, the projection is calculated by weighting the dataset from the national survey to match the rural/urban profile and political and demographic characteristics of the individual constituency on those chosen variables. In other words, knowing the age, gender and educational profile of the constituency, what proportion of its adult population live in rural areas and how it voted at the 2015 general election, we calculate what we would expect opinion in that constituency to be assuming that the opinions of people there are the same as those of similar people by age, gender, education, 2015 vote and rurality, at the national level across England and Wales.

It is important to note that the survey makes no direct measurement at constituency level, and no attempt is made to account for any specific local circumstances that may affect the state of public opinion in these projections.

Fox cub footage

In June this year, the League released footage appearing to show fox cubs being delivered to the South Herefordshire Hunt kennels before being thrown to the hunt hounds by hunt members. 

For further information, polling tables, comment or interview requests, please contact the League’s Press Office on 01483 524250 or email press@league.org.uk

The League Against Cruel Sports is a registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (No. SC045533) that brings together people who care about animals. Like the majority of the public, we believe that cruelty to animals in the name of sport has no place in modern society.